March 11, 2005
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - Kevin Bettencourt made two free throws with 8 seconds left as Bucknell blew a 20-point lead then held on to beat Holy Cross 61-57 in the Patriot League championship on Friday, giving the Bison their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1989.
Bettencourt scored the first six points for Bucknell (22-9, 11-5) as it took a 10-2 lead en route to a 33-13 advantage. But Kevin Hamilton led Holy Cross (24-6, 13-2) on a 14-1 run - stealing the ball on three consecutive possessions - to cut the deficit to two points with 58 seconds left.
After Kevin Hyland scored on a third-chance putback to make it 59-57, Chris McNaughton missed for Bucknell and Hamilton grabbed the rebound. But Hamilton put his fallaway jumper off the front of the rim, and Bettencourt was fouled on the rebound.
Bettencourt sank the free throws, then Keith Simmons missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Despite its 24 wins and the 16-game winning streak that ended Friday, the loss on its home court will most likely cost Holy Cross a chance at the NCAAs. No Patriot League team has ever been invited without winning the conference title.
"Everybody knows that. We know that. It's a fact of life," Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. "We knew that six months ago. We know it now."
Bucknell, which had impressive victories over Pittsburgh, Niagara and Saint Joseph's this season - had never won the Patriot League tournament title. The Bison have been to the NCAAs twice - they also went in 1987 - losing in the first round each time.
McNaughton had 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Bettencourt scored 13, going 7-for-7 from the line to make up for his 2-for-9 from the field.
Hamilton, the conference leader in steals, had 21 points to go with five steals in the game.
Bucknell, which beat American 53-35 to advance to the championship game, has won seven of its last nine games. Holy Cross needed overtime to beat Lehigh in the semifinal.
Holy Cross shot just 21 percent from the floor in the first half to fall behind and didn't mount a rally until it trailed 58-43 with 5:55 left.
Torey Thomas hit a 3-pointer and then Hamilton grabbed the long rebound of a missed 3 and sank a 3 to cut it to 58-49. After one missed free throw and a turnover, Holy Cross cut it to eight points when Thomas drove the lane and dished it to John Hurley.
Hamilton picked off a pass at the other end, drove to the basket and drew a foul, and made both free throws. Then he stole another pass and drove all the way in for a layup that made it 59-55.
The next time down, he grabbed another steal but as he moved toward the basket he was called for a questionable charge. Bucknell missed a long 3-point attempt at the other end, but it ran the entire shot clock down and when Holy Cross got the ball back it trailed by four with less than 90 seconds left.
Hyland scored after a couple of misses, and Hamilton got the rebound of McNaughton's missed jumper, but he couldn't come back and tie it at the other end.